The WRC points leader climbed to second position across Saturday morning, benefiting from punctures delaying his Toyota rivals Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.

However, Thierry Neuville‘s bid for a podium was dashed when his i20 N struggled for power, and he was forced to stop on several occasions before ending the stage in EV mode.

Neuville was unable to fix the problem that Hyundai stated was related to the fuel system and ultimately lost more than 10 minutes navigating through the afternoon loop.

As a result, the Belgian dropped from second to fifth [+11m48.6s behind leader Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera]granting provisional seven championship points to title rival Evans, who ended the day in fourth overall, from the Saturday classification.

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Neuville cut a frustrated figure in service park given this is the fourth year in succession he has encountered problems on the Safari Rally.

“I don’t have a lot to say to be honest. Obviously, it was visible that the car wasn’t running and somehow we couldn’t solve the problems, so we continued the whole loop like this,” said Neuville.

“I’m really disappointed with the outcome when you put some much effort into that work and your preparations, and you don’t get the reward, and it is the fourth consecutive year we have been hit by trouble, it doesn’t feel very good.

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

“We kept fighting and we will keep fighting but obviously we gave seven points to Elfyn and five points to Ott [Tanak]so that is a lot of points we miss out.

“It is not related to Safari, it is not a Safari-related issue, which is even more frustrating.”

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul added: “Thierry’s issue in the afternoon is something we haven’t really seen before, so we need to have a look at the data and the fuel tank to understand what is going on.”

Neuville will stand to pick up eat at least eight championship points if he can finish Sunday’s stages, where a further 12 points are offered under the new-for-2024 points system.